Digital transformation is more than saving costs by shifting paperwork to a digital version. Organisations that do this miss the whole point of digital transformation. They may find they are no better off. The cost of converting to e-paperwork comes with added cyber security risk and costs to mitigate such risks, as well as training staff and customers on the new e-paperwork.

The key to digital change, is to first understand that it is about people not technology. Digital transformation is the re-envisioning of business strategy, tactics, processes, culture and stakeholder experiences, by leveraging new technologies, to meet evolving social and economic needs.

Holistic approach

Taking a holistic approach to digital change, recognising cultural, strategic, operational changes and wellbeing of people in the digital transformation process will yield the greatest benefit. Yielding both higher turnover and lower expenses, thus improving profit margins.

This can only happen when the organisation focuses on the value-add and wellbeing for all its people, i.e. internal and external stakeholders. A competency-based service-centric organisation culture, agile in its approach and receptive to listening and empowering all its people will thrive on the digital transformation journey.

So, what are the key components in kick-starting the digital transformation journey?

To “START” our digital transformation journey, in this three-part series of blogs, we explore this acronym in detail.


Each journey starts by first stating a clear vision for the end goal. If you want to climb Mount. Kilimanjaro (African’s highest mountain) then first you need to mentally see yourself at the top of the mountain. This vision will be a key driver, a source of strength and courage for when it gets tough. It will get tough. No worthwhile journey is without its challenges.

Stating the vision for digital change, needs to be encapsulated using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based) goals and communicated throughout the organisation. Remember, digital transformation is more about people than it is about technology. Ensuring regular communication and buy-in from people for digital transformation will greatly assist in its implementation and ultimate outcome. We will speak more on people buy-in later in this blog series.

For now, start with a clearly stated vision backed-up by SMART goals is the key. There are numerous ways of going about setting the vision and goals, but this can only be done after some initial training.


The importance of training should be emphasised. Training permeates the whole digital process from beginning to end.

Remember each letter in the “START” acronym does not represent an individual step. Rather a gear in the digital process. Thus, these are not stand-alone components, but each needs to work with the other for the whole process to be successful.

Before starting on the journey, it is important for senior management to understand what digital change means and how it can impact the business. Digital transformation will mean different things to different businesses.

Copying what a competitor is doing will probably not be the right strategy. Nor would jumping on the digital bandwagon without first understanding the array of options available in going digital, before deciding on which route to pursue is important.

Again, the training does not only relate to technology training, but people training. Knowing and understanding people’s attitudes and acceptance of technology and digitalisation is important.

For example, over many years bank branches and the number of ATMs have steadily fallen. The most common excuse for closure is the digitalisation of the banking sector and the increasing popularity of internet and mobile banking. However, research conducted by Business for Scotland in 2018, found that 96%, of the people that participated in its survey, saw bank closures as something that would have a negative impact on their businesses in the future. Particularly hard hit are rural areas and the elderly and vulnerable. While there is a clear case for banks to close branches, saving millions in branch related expenses and improving their margins; the impact to the wider society may be adverse not only in terms of customer access and service but also loss of jobs. As a means of buy-in many banks did initiate digital training for its customers and to raise awareness, partly after the bank branches had already closed.

Training is central to a digital transformation process and starts before goals of such a process are even set. Setting SMART goals can only happen if those setting them have the adequate training and knowledge about digital transformation to ensure such goals are set.

As we conclude part one of this short series of blogs on digital transformation, ask yourself the following question.

What does digital transformation mean to you and your business?

Read more

Part 2 – Digital transformation is a journey

Part 3 – Digital transformation technologies

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